Saturday 27 April 2013

Hot 'n' Cold

So as well as generally being a bit rubbish at the Whole Blogging Thing recently, I have been more specifically rubbish at the Ice Cream Blogging thing and totally neglecting lovely Kavey's BSFIC challenges.

Actually - it's even sadder than that - in some cases, I've gone as far as to make the ice cream (see my lovely raspberry, chocolate and pistachio number here), but still not managed to get around to the actual blog part. I know, I know - I am a bad person!

Anyway, this time round I was super keen and might even have been the VERY FIRST person to throw my hat into the baked alaska making ring, though you'll have just to take my word for that, as, despite making (and eating) it weeks and weeks ago, I've only just got around to writing it up for your reading pleasure!

One of the reasons for my extreme enthusiasm about the theme this month is that I have never before eaten baked alaska. Never. Not in my whole wide life.

I looked up a few recipes and things and, contrary to my expectations, they all used French meringue (just eggs whites whisked cold with sugar) and were really and truly baked.
Being the lazy and disobedient person that I am, however, I opted for Italian meringue and very little baking.

I whipped up a quick condensed milk ice cream using a mixture of cream and yogurt (again, super lazy, but having learnt how to do this in an earlier BSFIC, I've really never looked back) and swirled it with lemon curd (simply because lemon curd is delicious) into a kind of lemon ripple monstrosity.
When the ice cream was set, I scooped out the roundest, prettiest scoops that I could manage and stuck them back in the freezer to harden up (overnight, I think).

I made a quick Italian meringue by beating up some egg whites and very gradually whisking in some hot sugar syrup until the whole thing was cool and glossy.

I cut flat circles out of a madeira cake and spread them with a little bit more lemon curd, then cunningly balanced the ice cream balls on top.

I had planned just to blowtorch the tops, but, in fact, I found that it worked better to stick them into a hot hot oven for a couple of minutes.

And lo, they were everything I dreamed they would be. Hot and cold at the SAME TIME - genius!

Now that I know how easy and delicious it is, I am definitely going to bake further alaskas - pink fruit addict that I am, I might try some sorbets/swiss roll combinations next time - I reckon that would be pretty nice and, since it's officially* summer now, totally seasonally appropriate too :)

This is my entry to the BSFIC April roundup - check it out!

*In my house, at least...

Friday 26 April 2013

World Baking Day: Coffee Cake for Booze Free Days

On Sunday, 19th May this year, it is apparently World Baking Day - a global event in which everyone, no matter what their skills and experience, is invited to join in the baking fun and "Bake Brave" by baking something that is out of their usual comfort zone.

In order to facilitate this, they have provided 100 lovely recipes (I'm definitely trying a few - maybe even this weekend) of varying levels of difficulty for you to play with, one of which (eeeeek) is MINE.

So here's the story of the cake - I've been sitting on it (waiting for the website to go live) for a little while now, so some bits are probably a *teeny tiny* bit less current than they might once have been.

When I was asked for a good baking recipe for World Baking Day, I wasn't really sure what people would want to see - there are a million recipes out there anyway, and mine are probably little different to most of the others, so I decided not to worry about making it too radical or different and just to share the thing I've been making most frequently for the last month or so.

As anyone who's reading carefully will know, my husband is in the midst of a booze free month (actually, a pretty long month, now - it's been going for, I think, about five weeks so far, and we're not quite at the end yet), which, whilst doubtless being good for him (and, by proxy, me) in many ways, has lead to a marked increase in his requirement for baked goods.
Actually, this suits me pretty well - the late night baking sessions when he looks around and wonders if there are any 'snacks' are a pretty good fit for my well documented penchant for such things, and I'm getting really good at baking things based on whatever ingredients we happen to have lying around.
Given the choice, though, what he really wants (and ALWAYS requests when asked for an opinion) is coffee cake. Preferably in the format of a round sandwich cake with lots of filling, though he'll take it however he can get it.
So here it is - if you ever fancy a go at a dry period, this is exactly the cake you need to get you through it.
And if you make anywhere near as many as I have in the past month or so, you'll get really good at it really quickly!

And here it is on the actual World Baking Day website.
Coffee Cake for Booze Free Days

  • 4 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • The equivalent weight of the four eggs in:
    • Margarine
    • Caster Sugar
    • Self raising flour (or plain flour and a bit of baking powder)
  • About 25mls cold coffee - made up as strongly as you can (instant is fine - I used aeropress espresso style, as that's what I had in the house). You could use a few drops coffee extract or similar instead, but that way, you don't get the nice dark colour.
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g margarine (or room temperature butter) for the icing
  • 320g icing sugar
  • Cocoa powder, walnuts or chocolate buttons (or some combination of the three) to decorate

  • First of all, weigh your eggs and try to remember the number - this is the amount of margarine, sugar and flour that you will need.
  • Preheat your oven to 180 (or 160 fan).
  • Cream together the margarine and sugar until they're light coloured and fluffy - I use my lovely electric stand mixer for this, which makes it easy, but you can do the same with a wooden spoon and some frantic beating. This is probably the most important bit and makes for a nice light sponge, so it's worth putting in a bit of time/elbow grease at this stage.
  • Add the lightly beaten eggs, one at a time and beat in quickly until combined - you don't need to spend too long on this - it's better not to overbeat. If the mixture looks like it's curdling, then add a few tablespoons of the flour between eggs.
  • Add about a tablespoon of the coffee and beat in quickly.
  • Chuck the flour and salt (and baking powder if applicable) into the bowl and fold in with a spatula or metal spoon - again, you don't want to spend too much time here - just the minimum amount of mixing to get everything combined.
  • Spread the mixture gently into greased sandwich cake tins (this also works well as a flat slab cake in lined brownie style tin, though you obviously sacrifice the buttercream filling that way) and stick them in the oven for about 25 minutes or until a knife or skewer poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean. You might want to turn them once half way through, but, other than that, it's generally best to avoid opening the oven door too much - particularly near to the beginning.
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and leave on a rack to cool.
  • When the cakes are cold enough to handle (and not to disintegrate), remove them from the tins and leave to cool completely.
  • For the icing, beat the margarine or butter (personally, I'd go for butter here - whilst margarine makes fluffier cakes, I think butter makes for a tastier icing, though that's obviously fairly subjective) with the icing sugar until it's sort of crumby - the stand mixer or an electric whisk makes this pretty easy, but, again, a wooden spoon and some hard work will also do the job.
  • Add the rest of the coffee and beat fast and crazily until the icing is as fluffy as you can possibly make it (I usually do about 5 minutes on a fast speed in the stand mixer). You have to keep an eye on this, though, as it can go a bit gloopy if you beat it for too long.
  • Ice to taste - I tend to favour a generous layer of icing sandwiched between the layers, then either piped splodges on top topped with walnuts (or chocolate buttons) or another thin layer spread over the top dusted with cocoa powder/icing sugar or chocolate curls/sprinkles, but, honestly, the World is your oyster here - do whatever you most want to eat!